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The professional risks of medical pot, 15-week abortion bill, and Krasner in contempt

Plus, Pa.' s opioid settlement funds are now arriving.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
September 14, 2022
Unimpaired and unemployed, abortion bill, drug money, flood-prone, school stretch, and a driver's license redesign. It's Wednesday. Welcome.
AN URGENT CALL TO ACTION: This week, we're kicking off our 2022 election coverage and with it, a very important fundraising drive. We need to reach 500 gifts by Sept. 24 to power our vital public-service election reporting that's focused on empowering voters.

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— Colin D., PA Post editor

Fired workers and frustrated employers are facing off in court over Pennsylvania's vague safeguards for medical marijuana patients.

While state law protects workers from being fired or denied a job just for having a doctor's permission to use medical marijuana, those protections become opaque when people take the drug — even off the clock.

Despite demands for clarity from businesses, cannabis advocates, attorneys, and at least one judge, the legislature and governor have so far failed to explicitly outline the rights of scores of workers and employers.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Pa. protects workers who are approved for medical marijuana — but once they use it, it's a different story.

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania's law doesn't address the rights of patients to use the drug when they aren't at work, and unlike some other states, it doesn't include protections if they fail a drug test but are not impaired.

Traces of marijuana may remain in a patient's system for up to 30 days and drug tests can't distinguish when the drug was taken. 

"I feel like I have a target on my back," said Todd Douglas, a medical marijuana patient and Philadelphia Gas Works employee.

After a random drug test in November indicated he had used marijuana, Douglas, who says he doesn't work on live gas lines and has never been high at work, found himself reassigned and forced to undergo therapy.

He pushed back and a federal oversight agency later ruled in his favor, but other patients have had to endure lengthy legal battles over marijuana-related terminations and denials of unemployment benefits.

Court decisions could ultimately deliver clarity, but legal observers say the legislature should simply address the issue head-on. 


"I don't want down the line to be stuck in any kind of really unfortunate position where I have to make really hard choices."

—Lee Thompson of Philadelphia, who opted for a permanent form of birth control called tubal sterilization or tubal ligation after Roe v. Wade
The upcoming fall election will be pivotal to the future of Pennsylvania, and Spotlight PA is delivering trusted, nonpartisan reporting, guides, events, and more to empower voters to make an informed choice at the polls. But this vital public-service journalism depends on your support.

We need to reach 500 gifts by Sept. 24, and as a special bonus, all donations will be DOUBLED. Help us reach this goal by making a contribution now.

Thank you to the 112 people who have given so far, including Karen K., who said, "I want voters to be informed." Join Karen and give now »
» THE STATE OF PA ELECTIONS: Join us Thursday, Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A with Acting Secretary of State Leigh M. Chapman, who oversees elections in Pennsylvania. Chapman will discuss how her agency secures and runs elections, explain the state's voting policies, and answer all of your pressing questions ahead of Nov. 8. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
» BILLY PENN: Fact-checking viral claims that Oz abused animals
» POLITIFACT: Ad dissects Fetterman's armed chase of a Black man
» POST-GAZETTE: Election deniers target voting machines (paywall)
» SPOTLIGHT PA: Your complete guide to the governor's race
» WAPO: Can Mastriano win in a 'right-wing bubble'? (paywall)

Support Spotlight PA's vital election coverage by making a gift now.
As seen at the Stonewall Garden Center in Canadensis by Cameron T. Send us your photos, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
15 WEEKS: U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) has introduced a bill that would ban abortion nationally after 15 weeks and supersede Pennsylvania's 24-week limit, via Axios. Why now, with Roe backlash motivating Democrats and altering campaigns in key states like this one? Axios says the GOP is trying to appear more mainstream on the issue. Critics say a 15-week ban is anything but. 

CRISIS FUNDS: Money from Pennsylvania's share of a multibillion-dollar settlement with the drug companies that helped fuel the opioid epidemic is beginning to reach counties here. WITF breaks down the totals each is set to receive and the provisos attached. Among the funding's approved uses: purchases of lifesaving overdose reversal drugs and treatment programs designed to ease the ongoing crisis.

HOUSE RULES: The state House has voted to hold Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner in contempt for failing to comply with subpoenas issued by a House committee that's looking for grounds to impeach the progressive DA. Spotlight PA's Stephen Caruso highlights the notable votes for and against finding Krasner in contempt. Here's what led up to the vote and what could come next, via City & State.

FLOOD PLAN: StateImpact reports that as climate change leads to more intense rain and flooding outside of federally designated flood zones, it will be up to communities to figure out how to respond. In flood-prone Middletown, officials have asked a professor of environmental engineering at Penn State Harrisburg for diagnostic help. One potential lead: buried streams found in cities statewide.

LOW STAFF: Upper Darby School District in Delaware County is still reporting dozens of open teaching positions weeks into the new school year. It's part of a statewide and nationwide trend that WHYY reports has led some Pennsylvania districts to shorten school days and enlist parents as paraprofessionals. One factor is the number of certified teachers here, which is a fraction of what it was just a decade ago.

EMMY STATE: Pennsylvania had itself a night at the Emmys on Monday. Sheryl Lee Ralph and Quinta Brunson took home statues for Abbott Elementary and Coraopolis's own Michael Keaton won for Dopesick.

DRIVE TIME: Pennsylvania driver's licenses and ID cards are getting a new look and security features, PennLive reports. Bonus: Find the Pennsylvania driver's license in the new trailer for NBC's Quantum Leap reboot.

SANDMAN: Actor Adam Sandler is going on a 15-stop concert tour with a stop at Allentown's PPL Center on Oct. 21, per WFMZ. An unidentified special guest will be there, too. Tickets go on sale this Friday at noon.

FALL MOO'D: If you're looking forward to a monthslong break from the summer heat, Lancaster Farming says you have something in common with dairy cows who find "their happy place" in the cool of autumn.

DEAD SPACE: Is this drab, near-windowless bank building outside of Pittsburgh the most ominous structure in all of the state?

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

*Bonus: Guess this week's theme on Friday for an extra chance at winning a shipment of Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Reputation

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Don H., Michelle T., Elaine C., Starr B., Susan N.-Z., Warren D., Kimberly D., Becky C., George S., Myles M., Deb N., David W., Bill S., Rick A., Dianne K., Susan D., Stanley J., James B., Judy M., and Doris T.
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